Zii Jia ‘turns out the lights’ on social media after cruel blow

KUALA LUMPUR: It’s a dark day for Malaysia’s No. 1 singles shuttler.

Probably, as that’s the message that world No. 7 Lee Zii Jia intends to send out as he changed the background of his profile pictures on his social media accounts, including on Instagram and Facebook, into plain black colour immediately after it was announced yesterday that he would be barred from competing.

Zii Jia chose to stay mum after the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) served a cruel blow by making a decision not to register their blue-eyed boy for all the Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournaments for the next two years.

The lengthy punishment certainly dealt Zii Jia a cruel blow as he’s unlikely to return in time for the one-year Olympic Games qualifying period which begins from the middle of 2023 by the time he finishes serving the suspension – unless some drastic measures are taken, like moving his base out of Malaysia.

Former international Koo Kien Keat and several other Denmark players took to social media to back Zii Jia.

Zii Jia thanked his fellow All-England champion and former international Koo Kien Keat for the encouraging words he received on his Instastory which stated: “Everyone gets to choose his or her own path, there’s no right or wrong decision nor the best decision in life.

“Every decision you make today will be part of your experience in the future.

“Looking forward to witnessing your future endeavours with the tenacity, positivity and showmanship that you have shown us as a true Malaysian. Thank you for the contributions and great impact that you have made for the country.”

Denmark’s men’s doubles ace Kim Astrup also made his disappointment felt with a post on Instagram: “Don’t know the details of this case which makes it difficult to make a statement. But it is as simple as @leeziijia simply wanna try to find his own path and do what he thinks is best for his career, and still gets a two-year ban from playing international tournaments… then I’m extremely disappointed in the direction badminton is heading.

“How can it be illegal trying to reach your dreams and goals?”

Danish veteran singles shuttler Hans-Kristian Vittinghus also reacted furiously when he tweeted: “Our sport is such a joke sometimes!”

Many fans vented their frustration and anger at the BAM for not putting the interests of the nation first.

“I suggest that Zii Jia play for a country that appreciates his talent and decision. Not for a country that blocks your development. Go to Singapore and become like Loh Kean Yew,” said The Star online reader.

Said another fan: “Shame on Malaysia. Is this the way they treat and threaten our potential player?” -MKINI

BAM’s big axe draws international scorn

Badminton ace Lee Zii Jia’s international peers are not happy with how he is treated by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).

Former Thomas Cup winner and current world’s No 22 singles player Hans-Kristian Vittinghus from Denmark described BAM’s decision to suspend Lee and Goh Jin Wei from international play as an “outright disaster”.

Vittinghus’s assessment of Lee and Goh’s predicament was that they did nothing wrong and yet they will have to sacrifice two years of their careers at their prime.

National shuttler Goh Jin Wei

“They want to follow their own path. Choose their own coaches, their own training set up, their own tournament schedule, do their own sponsorship deals etc.

“Basically, they want to make a living for themselves playing badminton professionally. Honestly, how is that a crime?

“They haven’t done anything whatsoever to discredit the sport nor their country,” wrote Vittinghus in his Facebook page.

Vittinghus’ Facebook post has received 1,700 comments and 7,400 shares since it was posted 12 hours ago.

Viktor Axelsen, another Dane and current world’s No 1 singles player, described Lee and Goh’s predicament as “crazy”.

“Imagine yourself being in a position where you don’t feel happy in your current workplace and you want something to change. You go express your thoughts to your boss and tell her/him you want to quit and find another place to work.

“However, your boss is not happy about your decision and since they have the power to ban you from applying to jobs in your field, they might go ahead and do so. You just have to wait and see.

“Just listen how crazy this is. This is the year 2022. Is this what we want for our sport?” asked Axelsen on Twitter.

World’s No 1 singles player Viktor Axelsen

Axelsen’s tweet last night has received 2,530 retweets and 5,280 likes at the time of writing.

BAM decided not to field Lee and Goh in any international tournament after the duo decided to leave the association and turn professional.

Major tournaments are all organised by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) – the international governing body of the sport recognised by the International Olympics Council.

Kedah-born Lee, 23, is widely regarded as the best Malaysian badminton player at the moment.

Vittinghus mused that Lee and Goh now have three options: Quit badminton, play for a different country or take the matter to court.

“Either way the player is f*****,” wrote Vittinghus.

He explained that even if a player moves to another country, it will at least take 12 months before the player is able to play internationally again.

“And it’s already crazy you can be forced to move away from your home country, just to follow your dreams because your national body is making full use of power, that there is no fairness in them possessing.

“I’m aware the Malaysian association has nurtured these players since they were young. Paid them, trained them and covered their expenses. But isn’t helping young players and growing the sport exactly the task of a national body?

“Why does helping the players come with a restriction of the national body deciding if you can even compete in the sport? That’s insane.

“Everyone is losing with these rules. A decision like today is an outright disaster for badminton,” he said.

Losing Lee in international badminton, said Vittinghus, was a huge blow globally and in Malaysia.

He described Lee as one of the sport’s “most marketable athletes”.

“He’s well behaved, he’s competing for the biggest titles in the world and he’s from one of the most important markets for our sport,” said Vittinghus.

Vittinghus also criticised the BWF for imposing rules which only allow national bodies to decide who gets to represent their countries.

“Why is the federation deciding who gets to enter ‘open’ tournaments? Then it’s not really an open tournament, is it?

“I really really really do hope BWF soon realises this is not feasible for the future.

“National federations can’t hold this kind of power. I know many federations would never use this power to block their own players from competing, but it shouldn’t even be a possibility,” he said.

A solution, said Vittinghus, was perhaps to expand the realm of competitive badminton.

“Maybe even by creating a new professional tour,” he wrote.

Apart from Vinttinghus and Axelson, various other badminton stars, past and present, have come out in Lee and Goh’s defence through social media.